3 ways organizations can help employees transition back to the workplace

How to take a strategic, human-centered approach as employees return to the workplace.

By Tony Silber      
How to ease the transition back to the workplace

The number-one priority for many organizations as we move into the summer of 2021 is the return to the workplace. It’s been a long time coming, even though planning has been ongoing for at least a year, at least for some.

Now it’s likely that the next six months will see something close to a universal move back to offices and workplaces everywhere for those organizations that elect to make the move.

It’s timely, then, for a new on-demand webinar from Ragan to zero in on this trend.

The webinar, produced in partnership with Virgin Pulse,  comes at the topic from the perspective of both the employer and employee, seeking to bridge the gap between business needs and the uncertainty workers feel. The truth—and this is borne out in survey after survey—is that while workplaces are opening back up, not all employees want to return.

They fear contracting the COVID-19 at work. They fear losing the flexibility they gained while working from home. They worry about having to openly deal with new mental health concerns. They don’t want to commute again. In short, many workers just don’t want to go back to the pre-pandemic ways. “People are anxious,” noted Dr. David Batman, a member of the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board. “I’ve never seen such a high level of anxiety. In reality, mental health is on the agenda.”

Despite the anxiety, Batman says, there’s cause for hope. People are talking about mental health at work—or starting to. “There are a lot of positives,” he says. “The stigma is going down. All in all, it is a pandemic and it is a problem—but the fact that we’re having this webinar, that’s a positive.”

As for the return to the workplace, Batman says, there are three keys. One is to keep the messaging simple. Another is to treat people as individuals. A third is to communicate consistently. “Keep it simple, do it well, and do it long term,” Batman says. “Mental and physical health needs to be on the business agenda from the c-suite on down. Keep processes simple and understandable.”

And if people are still reluctant? Batman emphasizes that organizations need to try to understand, to hear what’s going on with people. “It maybe a slower transition,” he says. “It may need flexibility. We had people away from the office for 14 months. That’s a long, long time.”

The best thing organizations can do is become a center of recognized information so employees develop trust. “There are a lot of different things apart from vaccines that make the workplace safe,” he says. “Get a plan. Communicate, communicate, communicate.”

In addition to Batman, Virgin Pulse Director of Employee Experience Heidi McAllister, is a featured speaker, as is Paul Chae, the director of product marketing. Chae will share case studies of how organizations are leveraging Virgin Pulse internally to ready everyone for the “new normal.”

During this free webinar, you’ll learn:

  • The reasons why employees are hesitant to return to work.
  • How to provide an environment that facilitates employee resilience.
  • How to communicate to all staff the shared and uncharted path you’re embarking on.
  • How to ensure that proximity bias does not become an issue.
  • How to promote social connections to improve employees’ productivity.
  • How to foster open and empathetic conversations with employees about returning to the workplace.
  • Ways to showcase other employees/colleagues who are excited to return to work as an ally/buddy for those who are anxious.
  • Ideas for return-to-work initiatives created through active listening and best communications practices.